I was out with friends last night and one asked me about what books I was reading and would recommend. In typical fashion, my mind froze, so I'm writing this as a kind of zeitgeist of what's been flowing around my consciousness recently.
A lot of my reading now is for the two book groups I am a part of. I don't think, personally, that a lot of the books have been whoop-de-doo-dah to write home about sadly. Most recently, Jack Glass by Adam Roberts was good, but felt a bit of a let down - I felt cheated by the ending and that the whole hadn't lived up to the promise of the frankly excellent collection of short stories Adam Robots (that I do heartily recommend). Dark Eden by Chris Beckett was, again, good but something felt missing... normally I like evolved languages/dialects in my books, but I struggled to like this one. Both these books, by the way, have beautiful covers and despite my lack of enthusiasm, would say they are worth reading, and I am looking forward to Beckett's follow-up which is currently being serialised in Aethernet Magazine. A more light-hearted fantasy series is Gaie Seabold's Babylon Steel which, again, most of us enjoyed and are looking forward to finding time to read the sequel. EDIT TO ADD (1): Graham Joyce's Some Kind Of Fairy Story is an excellent read and #I am looking forward to adding more of his stuff to my I've-actually-read-it pile!
For the other group, E M Forster's The Machine Stops was a very short novella which certainly spoke a lot to the way our society is headed, despite being over a century old. Before that, it was Isaac Asmiov's Caves of Steel (we are on a bit of a dead white male binge at the moment... I will be doing my best to rectify that when the next nominations open). It's a classic of the genre, and explores the famous Three Laws, but beyond that there are books I'd far rather read.
Outside of the book groups, Mitch Benn's Terra was a good read; a little concerning at first as characters are portrayed as Roald Dahl style caricatures (think the level of The Twits with chronic arguments in place of disgusting pranks), but soon moves past them onto better things.
But then I picked up Neil Gaiman's Ocean At the End of The Lane. A truly beautiful piece of writing and one which should have me raving about in the pub last night had I not frozen. If you only have the time to check out one book from this post, make it this one.
I'm currently in the middle of reading Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch - the fourth in a series I had got my friend onto with a well chosen birthday present (The series goes Rivers of London, Moons Over Soho, Whispers Underground and, now, Broken Homes). Nice, fun, light-hearted reads. EDIT TO ADD (2): Now that I've finished reading it - "nice light-hearted reads with a killer fucking twist at the end you bastard you bastard you bastard!!!".
On a similar "Oh look, Supernatural stuff in the city" theme, Mur Lafferty's Shambling Guide to New York City is a good start to what promises to be a fun romp through the supernatural cities of America.
For a darker take on this theme, Paul Cornell's London's Falling is an excellent read.
This year, I have gotten into Robin Hobb's stuff - particularly her Farseer stuff (unconventionally, I started with The Tawny Man trilogy and went back to read the original Farseer trilogy, Liveship Traders Trilogy is next on my wish list) - and have got my hand on her recent novella The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince which just made me want to re-read everything with the new understandings. Also in the more traditional fantasy vein, Saladin Ahmed's Throne of the Crescent Moon was an action-packed read with a different set of characters to normal.
Toh EnJoe's Self-Reference Engine was a wonderfully surreal read which I can'[t wait to dive back into at some point. Keeping it surreal, I'm working through the back catalogue of one of my favourite authors, Stanislaw Lem - The Star Diaries was an excellent purchase and I'm part way through The Investigation.
I have also just finished reading Mervyn Peake's Letters From A Lost Uncle which was a hell of a lot of fun (and if you haven't read the Gormenghast Trilogy, you really need to! Or at the very least, try and get hold of The History of Titus Groan radio adaptation... and while your at it, get the Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman) adaptation).
I am also part way through (so many books on the go at once) We See A Different Frontier SF short stories themed around colonialism from the point of view of the colonised.
I also tend to fit in short stories from the physical magazines Interzone (SF) and Black Static (Horror) (absolutely worth the subscription price) and the e-magazines and online sites Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Apex EDIT TO ADD (3a): and Daily Science Fiction. To start you out, you may want to look at any of these:
- Found by Alex Dally MacFarlane (Clarkesworld, August 2013)
- Immersion by Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld) [see also the podcasts list below]
- Silently and Very Fast (Part 1) by Genevieve Valentine (Clarkesworld) [Part 2, Conclusion]
- Mono No Aware by Ken Lui (Lightspeed) [see also podcasts below]
- The Lord of Discarded Things by Lavie Tidhar (Strange Horizons)
- EDIT TO ADD(3b): Troll: A Tale Told Collectively by Marissa Lingen (Daily Science Fiction)
- Sundae by Matt Wallace (PodCastle) - this is an excellent piece of work. This is the if-you-have-time-for-only-one must-listen piece. Excellently read, beautifully told, utterly heartwrenching.
- Immersion by Aliette de Bodard (EscapePod). EscapePod is currently doing a series of the Hugo nominees for Best Short Story I'd be hard pressed to chose between this one and the story below. An examination of colonialisation, cultural dilution and addiction. Stunning Work. Set in the same universe as her Novella On A Red Station Drifting also worht checking out.
- Mono No Aware by Ken Lui (EscapePod) is another Hugo nominee for Best Short Story and another absolute corker. Also worth checking out Ken Lui's story from last year The Paper Menagerie.
- Trixie and the Pandas of Dread by Eugie Foster (EscapePod) and A Gun for Dinosaur by L. Sprauge de Camp (EscapePod) are a great if you're in the mood for something lighthearted and fun.
On the non-fiction front, Heather Brooke's excellent books The Silent State and The Revolution Will Be Digitised are massively important pieces of work covering Freedom of Information and Wikileaks. Mark Henderson's The Geek Manifesto is a call to arms to make science and rationality a much larger part of our political landscape. Also, Hacking Politics: How Geeks, Progressives, the Tea Party, Gamers, Anarchists and Suits Teamed Up to Defeat SOPA and Save the Internet edited by David Moon, Patrick Ruffini, and David Segal was inspirational in showing what we can achieve when we unite.
Finally, a brief look at what I'm looking forward to. Lavie Tidhar has a new novel coming out soon, Violent Cases along with, hopefully, a collection of his Central Station stories. There are a number of series and sequels I'm expecting highlighted above. I'm looking forward to getting my teeth into Cory Doctorow's latest books (picked up signed copies of Homeland (sequel to Big Brother) and Pirate Cinema at NineWorlds) and finally Roz Kaveney's Rhapsody of Blood series (again, I have copies of the first two, but I believe the second isn't actually out until Autumn, so you've got time to catch up 8-)
I'm sure I'll update this post over the next week or so as more bits come to my mind, but for now, toodlepip!